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Social networks, employment and worker discouragement: Evidence from South Africa


  • Burns, Justine
  • Godlonton, Susan
  • Keswell, Malcolm


Social networks are increasingly being recognized as having an important influence on labour market outcomes, since they facilitate the exchange of job related information. Access to information about job opportunities as well as perceptions about the buoyancy of the labour market depend critically on the social structures and the social networks to which labour market participants belong. In this paper, we examine the impact of information externalities generated through network membership on labour market status. Using Census data from South Africa, a country characterized by high levels of unemployment and worker discouragement, we adopt an econometric approach that aims to minimise the problems of omitted variable bias that have plagued many previous studies of the impact of social networks. Our results suggest that social networks may enhance employment probabilities by an additional 3-12%, and that failure to adequately control for omitted variables would lead to substantial over-estimates of the network co-efficient. In contrast, the impact of social networks on reducing worker discouragement is much smaller, at between 1 and 2%.

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  • Burns, Justine & Godlonton, Susan & Keswell, Malcolm, 2010. "Social networks, employment and worker discouragement: Evidence from South Africa," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 336-344, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:labeco:v:17:y:2010:i:2:p:336-344

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Godlonton, Susan, 2014. "Employment risk and job-seeker performance:," IFPRI discussion papers 1332, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    2. Ramírez, Eduardo & Ruben, Ruerd, 2015. "Gender Systems and Women’s Labor Force Participation in the Salmon Industry in Chiloé, Chile," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 96-104.
    3. Alfred Kechia Mukong, 2017. "Peer Networks and Tobacco Consumption in South Africa," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 85(3), pages 341-367, September.
    4. Ayça Akarçay Gürbüz & Sezgin Polat & Mustafa Ulus, 2014. "In Limbo: Exploring Transition to Discouragement," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 26(4), pages 527-551, September.
    5. KUEPIE Mathias & TENIKUE Michel & WALTHER Olivier, 2014. "Small businesses performance in West African border regions: Do social networks pay off?," LISER Working Paper Series 2014-06, LISER.
    6. Emily Frame & Ariane de Lannoy & Murray Leibbrandt, 2016. "Measuring multidimensional poverty among youth in South Africa at the sub-national level," SALDRU Working Papers 169, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    7. Miracle Ntuli & Prudence Kwenda, 2013. "Labour Unions and Wage Inequality Among African Men in South Africa," Working Papers 13159, University of Cape Town, Development Policy Research Unit.
    8. Rao, Neel, 2016. "Social effects in employer learning: An analysis of siblings," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 24-36.


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